Posts Tagged 'Magdalena Grohman'

Teaching for Creativity: Identifying Creative Potential

The focus on creativity this month includes a wealth of information to provoke further thoughts.  University of Texas at Dallas professor and creativity specialist Magdalena Grohman shares notes from a recent conference she attended.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if we didn’t have a definition of creativity? One crucial implication is that we wouldn’t know how to recognize creativity or how to identify it in a given domain or across different domains.  What does creativity look like in science?  Math?  Language Arts?  Without knowing who is or is not creative, we would not be able to list factors that may impede or enhance creative development. Here’s what I learned from my colleagues in the Division 10: Society for the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, during the 2011 American Psychological Association Convention.

So, let’s assume we understand creativity as an interaction between aptitude, thinking process, and environment. How does that definition help us identify creative talent?


Researcher and educator Dr. Roberta Milgram of Ariel University of Samaria, Israel, may have a couple of suggestions for you. In her talk “Identifying Talent in Mathematics and Science in Children, Adolescents, and Adults,” Dr. Milgram showed findings suggesting that each talent has two components: academic and creative. For example, for students to do well in math, they need to show mathematical reasoning and they need to know how to compute. But, according to Dr. Milgram, those students who are mathematically gifted also show that they can notice patterns and relationships and use complex and non-algorithmic thinking. Most importantly, they can apply original thinking with mathematical symbols that results in more than one strategy and/or solution. Let’s consider another domain—take language arts, for instance. A student that has a knack for language arts will not only show great reading comprehension and writing skills, but on top of that, s/he will also be quite observant and notice patterns and relationships, as well as similarities between remote concepts. In other words, s/he will experiment with concepts to come up with new and original ideas. This experimentation and creative thinking belongs to the thinking process portion of the definition of creativity. Skill, ability, motivation, and deep task commitment relate to aptitude. The take home message? Look closely for skills and intellectual ability AND for original and unorthodox thinking patterns that lead to unique ideas and solutions.


Aptitude also “contains” our attitude towards creativity, which can be shaped by our self-perception.  It turns out that whether we see ourselves as creative people depends on gender. These self-perceptions are different in girls and boys, and it has profound implications on what students invest in, and what domains of interest they choose. Another speaker, Dr. Zorana Ivcevic of Tufts University, showed that girls tend to equate creativity with artistic creativity; hence, they may be more likely to see themselves being creative in this very domain. It also suggests that they may avoid even trying to be creative in other domains. Boys, on the other hand, equate creativity with science.  Furthermore, girls are more likely to associate creativity with challenges, whereas boys—with enjoyment. The take-home message?  “Women who consider themselves to be creative are likely to engage in the arts, while men are more likely to engage in the sciences.” What we, educators, can do is first to show that creativity is in every single domain, and second to encourage our students to build bridges between disciplines. It really is OK to encourage a science-focused student to discover art, and an art student to find beauty in mathematical equations.


We, parents and educators, are undeniably part of the environment that influences the creativity of our children and students. Again, we can learn from Dr. Ivcevic’s study—”Perceptions of Creativity in Croatian Elementary School Students and Teachers”—that whom teachers perceive as creative, and whom students perceive as creative have great impact on who ultimately will be identified as creative and talented. The environments that value obedience to authority, maturity in behavior of children, and discourage nonconformity may decrease creativity. Dr. Ivcevic’s study of Croatian teachers’ perceptions of creativity went hand in hand with the expectation of appropriate behavior in girls and boys. Moreover, students concurred with these perceptions, and nominated those girls and boys as creative who conformed to teachers’ expectations. In other words, “good boy” and “good girl” were seen as creative.  Young children were also seen as more creative. In another study, Dr. Ivcevic found out that younger kids were more likely to be seen as creative, but not older children! It seems that in a restrictive environment that values conformity, creativity is less appropriate as children grow older. Some of you may question the relevance of this study to our society that (we want to believe) values creativity across all ages. Nevertheless, the take-home message? In an environment where conformity and authority is valued over inquisitiveness, experimentation, and exploration, we may run into the problem of misidentification—mistaking “nice” behavior for a creative behavior.

Thank you Dr. Grohman for sharing this knowledge with us.  If you have not had a chance to meet Dr. Grohman in person, she’s here at the DMA on the first Thursday of every month leading Think Creatively! workshops in the Center for Creative Connections.

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships

Teaching for Creativity: Chairs, Frank Gehry, and Combinatorial Thinking

Time to nurture your creativity!  Try this fun activity involving associative and combinatorial thinking by yourself or with a friend.

Step 1: Draw a chair. (any chair that comes to your mind)
Step 2: Interview this chair that you have drawn.  What questions would you ask this chair?
Step 3: Imagine this chair that you’ve drawn has a GIANT ego.  Look a second time at the interview questions you wrote.  Which of the questions best fit an egotistical chair?
Step 4: Place the word “chair” in the middle of a piece of paper.   Build a chain of associations, starting with chair.  For instance: chair – leg – foot – walk – path – journey.  Get it?  Each word in the chain is an association with the word before it.  Try to make one, two, or three more chains of association.  Let your mind open up and flow with ideas!
Step 5: Circle the last word in each of your chains.  For instance, I would circle the word “journey” in my chain above.
Step 6: Test your combinatorial thinking abilities.  Take one of the circled words (example: journey) and combine it with chair.  The goal is to make something new through the combination of two words/ideas.  In this example, we are combining JOURNEY + CHAIR to create something new, and maybe even improved.  What new associations, ideas, and creations can emerge from mixing together two seemingly different ideas?
Step 7: Draw the new object or idea that you created from the two words.  Write an advertising slogan or jingle for this new product.

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Last night, I got my creativity on by participating in the DMA’s Thursday evening C3 Artistic Encounters program with creativity expert Dr. Magdalena Grohman and architect Peter Goldstein.  After Magda led us through the thinking and drawing exercise presented above, Peter shared with us some provocative connections to the work of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry through a PowerPoint of Gehry’s ideas, drawings, chair designs, and architectural structures.  Encouraging us to think about “collisions of spaces,” “forms crashing together,” and “the space between” when viewing Gehry’s work, Peter also highlighted an example of combinatorial thinking in Gehry’s work.  Bentwood chairs created by Gehry are an exploration of forms inspired by bushel baskets.  Gehry even took it a step further, adding notions of hockey and the flow of players’ movements on the ice to the combination of ideas reflected in these chairs.  CHAIR + BUSHEL BASKET + HOCKEY = “HAT TRICK” SIDE CHAIR

"Hat Trick" side chair, Frank Gehry (American, born 1929), designed 1992, manufactured by Knoll International, wood and bentwood, Dallas Museum of Art, Gift of the Knoll Group

A viewing of Sculpting Space: 299 Chairs was next on the agenda.  This installation of chair clusters, created by Peter’s architecture students at Skyline High School in Dallas ISD, invited a long look for collisions of spaces and forms.  Just as he asked his students to think about the space between, Peter asked us to explore spatial intersections through sketching exercises emphasizing loose, flowing lines.

Throughout September, join us for more spatial explorations of art and architecture on Thursday evenings with  C3 Artistic Encounters.  Peter Goldstein will be back on September 15, and his Skyline High School colleague Tom Cox will be the visiting artist on September 8 and 22.  These programs, which are FREE with paid admission, occur on Thursdays from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.  And guess what?  Educators receive FREE general admission to the DMA on Thursday evenings when they show their school ID at the visitor services desk.  What are you waiting for?  It’s time to get your creativity on!

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships



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